What does the idiom "ups and downs" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase ups and downs, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression ups and downs used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "ups and downs"


The phrase 'ups and downs' is an English idiom that is used to describe the highs and lows of life. It is usually used to refer to a difficult or challenging situation which contains moments of both success and failure. In other words, the phrase is used to describe the challenge of trying to stay positive in the face of adversity, as life is often unpredictable and difficult.


The phrase 'ups and downs' has been used for many centuries and can be traced back to the 16th century. The earliest known use of the phrase was found in Thomas Moore's poem, 'The Ballad of Tim Hurley' from 1596, which reads: "Then truly 'tis time to turn up or down, For there's ups and downs in life's journey." The phrase has been used ever since, with its earliest recorded usage in print in the early 1800s.


The phrase 'ups and downs' is often used in informal, everyday speech. It is used to refer to a situation where someone is experiencing both positive and negative outcomes. It is often used to talk about life, work, and relationships or to describe a particular period in someone's life. For example, someone might say, “Life is full of ups and downs” or “I'm going through some ups and downs in my relationship.” The phrase can also be used in a more figurative sense, to describe the combined effect of joy and sorrow in a situation, for example, “There were ups and downs in the performance.”

Example Sentences

  • Life has its ups and downs, but in the end it's all about how you deal with them.
  • I'm not sure what to expect, there have been a lot of ups and downs in my job lately.
  • We've had a lot of ups and downs in the past few months, but we're still here and still strong.

The meanings of the words in the "ups and downs" idiom

The power of idioms transcends languages!

"Putting the cart before the horse" is an English idiom that means doing things in the wrong order. In Russian, the similar idiom is "Кладёт колесо впереди лошади," which translates to "Putting the cart before the horse." This idiom emphasizes the idea that doing things in the wrong order can lead to confusion and problems down the line.


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